Enrique’s family came to the United States from Costa Rica when he was ten. His father was a physician and his mother an accountant. Enrique was their only child and they had great hopes for him. He had been a talented, although not very diligent, scholar in a strict, private school in Costa Rica. Now, in America, he was dazzled and almost benumbed by the infinite variety of games, video games, TV programs and seemingly wild experiences that opened up before him. He had studied English in his home country and picked it up in the US with amazing speed. His classmates just loved him. He was a nice-looking boy with a terrific flair for telling jokes and funny stories about himself and was always ready for any idea for fun that came along.
It didn’t take him long to feel like a real American kid. He had to use all his skills to convince his parents that he needed all sorts of high-tech gadgets. He pleaded that he needed a computer for schoolwork and he needed video games in order have things to share with his new friends. His kind parents equipped him with a computer in his bedroom with Internet access, and a Sony Playstation. He was in heaven. In Costa Rica, except for not studying as much as his parents wished, he had been a pretty obedient son. His parents expected obedience as a matter of course. His school had been strict. His church had been strict and did its share in portraying the damnation awaiting sons who did not honor their parents. His friends’ lives had been similar. Their small, wicked ways would have made any American boy laugh. All in all, his natural ENTP tendencies had not had much opportunity to be expressed.
But now! Enrique would go to bed at his regular time like a good boy, and wait patiently until he was sure his parents were sound asleep. Then he was up on his computer or his Playstation with headphones on so that his parents wouldn’t be disturbed. Typically he would play for hours until sleep overcame him. His poor parents had to drag him out of bed every morning. They couldn’t understand it and moved his bedtime an hour earlier to be sure he would have enough sleep. This was annoying because now he had to wait an extra hour before they would settle down for the night. However, he had been busy reading the Harry Potter series, which he had completely missed in Costa Rica, so he just crawled under the covers with a tiny reading light and enjoyed that pleasure until all was quiet for the night.
He was placed in the fifth grade when he entered his American school, because he had been far ahead in his old school on most subjects. The whole year had been a piece of cake, because he was still well ahead of his classmates. His parents had been disturbed by many of his teacher’s comments about his conduct—talking in class, disturbing his neighbors, not turning in homework—but all his test grades remained excellent, so they weren’t as stern as they might have been. The sixth grade, however, turned out to be a time of reckoning.
Enrique had been chosen as President of the sixth-grade class, which delighted him. His popularity was greater than ever and he was invited to every social event that any of his friends had. He tried out for a part in the school’s spring play and won the lead. Busy, busy, busy. Meanwhile, the work in class had come to a point where most of the material was new to him and his grades began to plummet. His parents were shocked and, after a lot of talk and arguing, and eventually some tears from Enrique, they removed the Playstation and forbade him to go to any of his friends’ homes during the week and on any evening. The evening rule meant that he missed going to a number of his friends’ parties, for which they teased him unmercifully. He tried every stratagem he could think of—promising over and over to be a much better son, but it was all to no avail. When he was about to miss a party for the fourth time he excused himself early, saying that he felt like he might be coming down sick, and went to his room. When his parents appeared to be settled down watching TV, he slipped out the window of his bedroom and took off for the party, which was just a few blocks away.
A little while later, his mother looked in on him, concerned that he might really be ill. His bed was untouched and a window was open a crack. A good accountant can certainly put two and two together and she was no exception. She phoned the family and found that Enrique was there. To his incredible embarrassment his parents both appeared on the doorstep and summarily dragged him home. It was major crisis time.
The computer was bundled up. His TV privileges were cancelled indefinitely and he has virtually placed under house arrest. His parents, whom he really did love, were furious about his defiance and dishonesty. In his heart of hearts he was sorry to have been so much trouble, but the restrictions on his new life made him crazy and he sulked around the house. At times the expression, “If looks could kill,” suited him perfectly, and inwardly he cursed his parents’ old-country ways. At other times he hated himself and cried silently into his pillow. Their home was not a happy place.
Finally, his father made an appointment with a well-regarded family therapist who had an office in his medical building. It was not an easy move, as his cultural background was such that he felt he should be able to handle the problems of his family on his own. He was embarrassed to seek help for this, but something had to be done. The whole family went in for a very stormy session. This proved to be the first of a number of such meetings. The therapist tried to show them that Enrique’s natural happy-go-lucky approach to life had interacted fiercely with his formerly strict life and his new-found freedoms and enticements. She worked slowly to get Enrique’s parents to reestablish some limits for Enrique that would not seem smothering, and to get him to understand his own role in this mini-catastrophe. Above all, she worked on getting through to him about the need for rules and limits in life, trying hard to make the point that not only his parents, but all of the world would always place some limits on him, would always expect him to keep his promises and meet his most basic commitments. It was slow work; Enrique was approaching twelve and full of pre-teen rebellion. On their side, his parents had a very difficult time trying to trust him enough to relax their control. Eventually, though, things got better. Enrique’s grades came up and negative comments on his school conduct went down. With the therapist, the family drafted some family ground rules that all parties felt they could honor.
Well, does this mean that the problems for Enrique’s family are all behind them? It is not likely. The young man has an enormous zest for life, a great amount of personal charm, many talents, and an innate hatred of restrictions. With all those qualities together, most anything could happen in the next few years. At the very least, we can expect him to shock his poor parents again with tattoos or earrings, or who knows what other behaviors that will seem outlandish to them. He is likely to want to sample everything, and his bold approach could easily lead him to more trouble. However, he and his family are both the better for having weathered this crisis and learned some useful lessons. Enrique, especially, has looked at his wish for total freedom and at least listened to the argument that this can only lead him to crash and burn. This is a good thing for him to have confronted early.
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